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October 27, 1999: the Yankees vs. the Braves, World Series Game Four: The End

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More fun with the media: Before tonight's game, John Rocker, the wacko Braves reliever, climbs the platform in left field where NBC has built its pregame setand begins screaming at the reporters and crew, "If you guys shoot me in the bullpen one more time, I'm gonna climb up here and shove those headphones upyour asses." Apparently Mr. Rocker did not enjoy all his camera time last night.

Jim Gray, the NBC reporter at the center of the Series' most tiresome "controversy," sits down on the Yankees bench during batting practice and isimmediately surrounded by about 50 of his colleagues, who ask him questions about being snubbed on live TV last night by Chad Curtis. Gray, true to thetradition that reporters are the most antagonistic interview subjects in the world -- far worse than Pete Rose -- smiles so tightly his jaw muscles twitchrepeatedly. Finally Gray squeezes out an answer: "I'm just looking forward to game four." He repeats this answer to every question he's asked. His pal KeithOlbermann, sitting next to Gray, says that he's used to media circuses: "I spent a year covering Monica Lewinsky," Olbermann says, though no one has asked, and Olbermann seems to have made it his life's work to make sure no one ever forgets his martyrdom.

Joe Torre has done a masterly job of minimizing media hassles during his four years as manager; it's probably Torre's third most amazing feat, after winning two championships and recovering from cancer. But Torre tonight makes some news: He's angry at Chad Curtis for claiming last night that the Yankees had taken a team vote to boycott Gray when, Torre says, the silent treatment was all Curtis's idea. The times Torre has publicly criticized one of his players can be counted on one hand. He must be livid at Curtis for interfering with the Yankees' focus. "I'm going to plan on talking to the team today," Torre says."We have a certain obligation to NBC that we're going to fulfill." Good thing Curtis won that game last night.

Mostly it's an excited, anticipatory mood tonight, everyone expecting a party celebrating the Yankees' sweep. Paul O'Neill's eyes are puffy, though; hisfather died last night. Yet when O'Neill steps in the batting cage, he starts laughing. "For most players," David Cone says, "the field is their only realsanctuary." A bit melodramatic, but true for O'Neill tonight. No doubt other teams have their illnesses and deaths in the family, but the Yankees have ledthe league in this kind of human-interest soap opera lately.

Speaking of sanctuary: Orlando Hernández is posing for pictures with a group of people who gave him a place to stay in Costa Rica after El Duque escaped fromCuba. Hernández has been remarkably testy recently, despite his great pitching, but with his Costa Rican friends, he cracks his biggest smile in weeks. JoséCardenal, the Yankees' first-base coach and a Cuban also, says even with the Internet and satellite dishes, the average Cuban baseball fan is still blacked out from official news of Hernández's games. "But the word is passed," Cardenal says. "People hear about El Duque." If the Series ends tonight, they'll probably soon find out that he's the MVP.

Tonight's front-row fun couple: Tim Russert and Bob Gibson.

--7:45 p.m., October 27, 1999


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